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Two steps in the Evolution of Language: Merge and Grammaticalization


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Title: Two steps in the Evolution of Language: Merge and Grammaticalization

Two steps in the Evolution of Language Merge and
  • Elly van Gelderen
  • Arizona State University
  • ICHL 18, Montreal, 8 August 2007

Language Evolution my aims
  • Some background on what we know from genetics,
    areal linguistics, etc.
  • Discuss the two steps in the development of the
    Computational System (CS)
  • Argue that change is triggered by cognitive
  • Explain
  • the Macro-Cycle Synthetic Analytic

As well as some Micro-Cycles
  • Negative (neg)
  • neg indefinite/adverb neg particle (neg
  • Definiteness
  • demonstrative article class marker
  • Agreement
  • emphatic pronoun agreement
  • Auxiliary
  • V/A/P M T C
  • Clausal
  • pronoun complementizer
  • PP/Adv Topic C

  • What we know
  • 50,000-150,000art/tools
  • how people/languages spread archeology and
    language-gene connection
  • What can areal linguistics and reconstruction
    tell us?
  • Nichols and WALS
  • Greenberg
  • What can (historical) syntax tell us?

First what we know from other sources migrations
MtDNA and Migrations
Areal Linguistics and Early Language?
  • Nichols, dependent marking none in Africa,
    Australia, etc

World Atlas of Language Structures
Dryers map on Case
VO and OV
Reconstruction and Early Language
  • What works general picture of migrations but not
    the actual shape of the language
  • Greenberg/Ruhlen
  • Campbell (1988)detrimental effect on the
    field, misleads.
  • Therefore we need to look at syntax for insight
    into evolutionary stages

Adam Smith, 1767
Some hypotheses on Proto-Language
  • Like Smith, Newmeyer suggests that
    proto-languages may have been inflectional (2000
    385, n 4)
  • Bickerton 1990
  • fossils of proto-lg (aphasia/pidgin) no
    morphology no PS
  • Hauser, Chomsky, Fitch 2002
  • FLB (CI-SM-Mechanisms for Recursion) FLN
  • Chomsky 2005
  • Merge "Great Leap Forward' in the evolution of

What was missing in Proto-language? Merge
  • (1)Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange
    give me eat orange give me you. (Nim)

And grammaticalization
Three separate systems?
  • symbolic
  • thematic
  • pragmatic(?)
  • sounds/vocabulary
  • merge and grammaticalization
  • SEM
  • PHON
  • NS

From Proto-LgTo Lg
  • Merge
  • Grammaticalization
  • Principles of Merge Economy lead to
  • Merge brought about the first step of linguistic
    evolution but Cognitive Principles (Chomskys
    third factor) were responsible for further
    language evolution.

Grammaticalization Specifier to Head Subject
  • a TP b TP
  • DP T DP T
  • pron T VP pron-T VP
  • Urdu/Hindi, Japanese Coll French
  • c TP
  • DP T
  • pro agr-T VP

Specifier to Head
  • Specifier (je-il) to Head
  • (1) Moi, jai pas vu ça.
  • I, I havent seen that.
  • (2) Et toi, tu aimes le rap?
  • (3) on voit que lui il n'apprécie pas tellement
    la politique
  • one sees that him he not-appreciates not so the
  • and it can be seen that he doesnt appreciate
    politics that way. (LTSN corpus, p. 15-466)

Standard to Colloquial French
  • (a) Modification, (b) coordination, (c) position,
    (d) doubling, (e) loss of V-movement, (f) Code
  • (1) et c'est moi qui ..
  • (2) Je et tu ...
  • (3) je lis et ecris

Doubling, loss of V-movement and code switching
  • (1) une omelette elle est comme ça Swiss Spoken
  • an omelette she is like this
  • (2) c'est que chacun il a sa manière de ...
    Swiss Spoken
  • it is that everyone he has his way of
  • (Fonseca-Greber 2000 335 338).
  • (3) Alors pourquoi moi aussi je n'aurais pas le
    droit d'enfumer les autres quelques minutes
    dans un bar?
  • Then why me also I not-have not the right to
    fill-with-smoke the others some minutes in a bar
  • (4) tu vas où Colloquial French
  • 2S go where
  • (5) nta tu vas travailler Arabic-French
  • you you go work
  • (from Bentahila and Davies 1983 313).

The Subject Cycle
  • (1) demonstrative third person pron clitic
  • (2) oblique emphatic first/second pron
    clitic agrmnt
  • Basque verbal prefixes n-, g-, z- pronouns ni
    I, gu we, and zu you.
  • Pama-Nyungan, inflectional markers are derived
    from independent pronouns.
  • Iroquoian and Uto-Aztecan agreement markers
    derive from Proto-Iroquoian pronouns
  • Cree verbal markers ni-, ki-, o-/ø pronouns
    niya, kiya, wiya.

English in transition
  • (a) Modification, (b) coordination, (c) position,
  • (d) doubling, (e) loss of V-movement, (f) Code
  • Coordination (and Case)
  • (1) Kitty and me were to spend the day.
  • (2) while he and she went across the hall.
  • Position
  • (3) Shes very good, though I perhaps I shouldnt
    say so.
  • (4) You maybe you've done it but have forgotten.
  • (5) Me, I was flying economy, but the plane, …
    was guzzling gas

Doubling and cliticization
  • (1) Me, I've tucking had it with the small place.
  • (2) Him, he ....
  • (3) Her, she shouldnt do that (not attested
    in the BNC)
  • (4) As for a dog, it should be happy.
  • uncliticized cliticized total
  • I 2037 685 (25) 2722
  • you 1176 162 (12.1) 1338
  • he 128 19 (12.9) 147

Loss of V-movement and Code switching
  • (5) What I'm go'n do?
  • What am I going to do'
  • (6) How she's doing?
  • How is she doing
  • (7) He ging weg he went away Dutch-English CS
  • (8) The neighbor ging weg

Other instances of the Head Preference Principle
  • Be a head, rather than a phrase/specifier
  • Acquisition
  • (1) those little things that you play with (Adam
  • Lg Change
  • (2) Relative pronoun that to complementizer
  • Demonstrative to article
  • Negative adverb to negation marker
  • Adverb to aspect marker
  • Adverb to complementizer (e.g. till)

DP Cycle
  • a. DP b. DP
  • dem D' ? D' (HPP)
  • D NP D NP
  • art N
  • ? ?
  • c. DP
  • D'
  • D NP
  • N
  • renewal

The Negative Cycle
  • XP
  • Spec X'
  • na wiht X YP
  • not nt …
  • through LM

Second kind of Grammaticalization Lexical
Functional/Late Merge
The preposition like as C
  • Acquisition
  • (1) like a cookie (Abe, 3.7)
  • (2) no the monster crashed the planes down like
    this like that (Abe, 3.7)
  • (3) Daddy do you teach like you do // like
    how they do in your school? (Abe, 4.10)
  • Language change
  • (4) People have never been down and out like they
    are today
  • (5) So the other girl goes like Getting an
    autograph is like, be brave and ask for it'. So I
    got it. I just went up to him and he like. O.K
  • (6) 3on man is lyke out of his mynd (Dunbar
    Poems, xix, 19).
  • Other cases of Late Merge
  • Negative objects to negative markers
  • modals v ASP T
  • VP CP adverbials
  • To P ASP M C

After from P C
  • (1)Fand þa ðær inn æþelinga gedriht swefan æfter
  • found then there in noble company sleeping
    after feast (Beowulf 118-9)
  • (2) æfter þissum gefeohte cuom micel sumorlida.
  • after this fight, there came a large
    summer-force' (Chronicle A, anno 871)
  • (3) Æfter þysan com Thomas to Cantwarebyri
  • After this, Thomas came to Canterbury'.
  • (Chronicle A, anno 1070)

  • (1) After that the king hadde brent the volum
  • (Wyclyf 1382, taken over in Coverdale 1535 and
    KJV 1611, from the OED).
  • (2) Aftir he hadde take þe hooli Goost (c1360
    Wyclif De Dot. Eccl. 22).
  • (3) After thei han slayn them (1366
  • Four stages
  • PP PP 900 (Chronicle A) present
  • PP (that) 950 (Lindisfarne) - 1600 (OED 1587)
  • P that 1220 (Lambeth) - 1600 (OED 1611)
  • C 1360 (Wycliff) - present

A too much work story
  • CP
  • C
  • C …
  • PP
  • after DP

From P C (feature-wise)
  • PP CP
  • P DP C TP
  • after after
  • u-phi 3S (u-phi)
  • ACC uACC
  • In English, no phi, but Germanic C-agreement.

From V AUX
  • VP TP
  • V DP T VP
  • wolde uCASE would V DP
  • ACC phi uphi
  • uphi

Feature Economy uF as perfection
  • Economy of Features
  • Minimize the interpretable features in the
  • a. Spec Head zero
  • b. semantic interpretable uninterpretable (p
    hi on N) (uphi on T)
  • This explains the cycles and where non-lexical
    categories came from.

Aspect Cycle
  • a. ASPP b. ASPP
  • ASP ASP'
  • up V AP up ...
  • up
  • ? ?
  • c. ASPP
  • ASP'
  • ASP VP
  • V AP
  • up

Perfective aspect
  • Cycle
  • (1) adverb affix 0
  • One stage
  • (2)a. Elizabeth's accession allowed him to
    receive back his wife (BNC-GTB938)
  • b. a husband who changed his mind to receive his
    wife back without ceremony (BNC-HTX2122).
  • - Pattern (a) has become more frequent in the
    recent period (Davies 2005), even with definite
  • In the 100-million British National Corpus,
    receive occurs nine times in constructions such
    as (2a) and four times in constructions such as
    (2b) (twice with a pronoun and twice with a DP)
  • - The use of pronominal objects, typical for the
    first order, with these verbs has gone down too.

Two other principles
  • Null hypothesis of language acquisition
  • A string is a word with lexical content
  • (Faarlund 2007)
  • Specifier Incorporation (SIP)
  • When possible, be a specifier if you are a
  • (van Gelderen 2007)

Renewal at the end of the cycle
  • Newmeyer 2006 notes that some grammaticalizations
    from noun/verb to affix can take as little as
    1000 years, and wonders how there can be anything
    left to grammaticalize if this is the right
  • Late Merge (Feature Economy), however, provides
    an answer for what the source of the
    replenishments are, namely lexical elements from
    lower in the tree. There are also borrowings and
    creative inventions through SIP.

New specifiers
  • (1) a laide de Dieu notre Seigneur, Qui vous
    douit bonne vie et longue.
  • With the help of God, our Lord, who gives us
    a good and long life' (Bekynton, from Rydén, p.
  • (2) be the grace of God, who haue yow in kepyng
  • by the grace of God, who keeps you' (Paston
    Letters 410).

  • 1 Evolution as Grammaticalization
  • After the introduction of Merge, the emergence
    of syntax would have followed the path that
    current grammaticalization follows one that
    children use. Cognitive Economy Principles, from
    which grammaticalization and language change

2 Thematic Discourse
  • Chomsky (2002 113) sees the semantic component
    as expressing thematic as well as discourse
    information. If thematic structure was already
    present in proto-language (Bickerton 1990), the
    evolutionary change of Merge made them
    linguistic. What was added through
    grammaticalization is the morphology, the second
    layer of semantic information.

3 Language is a Perfect Solution to Interface
  • the conflict between computational efficiency
    and ease of communication is resolved to
    satisfy the CI interface (2006 9).
  • That would mean an analytic stage is preferred,
    but there is no evidence of that!
  • Therefore

4 Analytic ? Synthetic
  • Cycle goes from (a) to (b) to (a) …
  • a) Movement links two positions and is thereby
    economical (synthetic) uninterpretable/EPP
  • b) Avoid syncretism Iconicity is economical
    (analytic) semantic and interpretable features

Some References
  • Bickerton, Derek 1990. Language and Species.
    Chicago University of Chicago Press.
  • Carstairs-McCarthy, A., 1999. Origins of complex
    language. OUP.
  • Chomsky, Noam 2002. On Nature and Language. CUP.
  • Chomsky, Noam 2005. Three factors in Language
    design. Linguistic Inquiry 36.1 1-22.
  • Chomsky, Noam 2006. Approaching UG from below.
  • Dryer, Matthew n.d. http//
  • Faarlund, Jan Terje 2007. to appear in EyÞórrson.
  • Forster, Peter http//
  • Gelderen, Elly van 2004. Grammaticalization as
    Economy. Benjamins.
  • Gelderen, Elly van 2007. The Linguistics Cycle.
    to appear in EyÞórrson.
  • Haspelmath, Martin et al. 2005. The World Atlas
    of Language Structures
  • Hauser, Marc, Noam Chomsky, Tecumseh Fitch
    2002. The Faculty of Language what is it, who
    has it, and how did it evolve? Science 298

  • Kuczaj, S. 1976. -Ing, -s, -ed A study of the
    acquisition of certain verb inflections.
    University of Minnesota PhD.
  • Newmeyer, Frederick 2000. On the Reconstruction
    of 'Proto-World' Word Order. In Chris Knight et
    al (eds) The Evolutionary Emergence of Language,
    372-388. CUP.
  • Newmeyer, Frederick 2006. What can
    Grammaticalization tell us about the Origins of
    Language?. Abstract, http//
  • Nichols, Johanna 1992. Linguistic diversity in
    space and time. Univ of Chicago Press.
  • Piattelli-Palmarini, Massimo Juan Uriagereka
    2005. The Evolution of the Narrow Faculty of
    Language. Lingue e Linguaggio, 1-52.
  • Smith, Adam. 1767. The theory of moral
    sentiments. To which is added a dissertation on
    the origin of languages. London 3rd ed.
  • Tauli, Valter 1958. The Structural Tendencies of
    Languages. Helsinki.